Sister Karen Kosin retires after 33 years at Food Bank

Sister Karen surrounded by friends and co-workers at Second Harvest.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania is, for the first time in its history, without an Erie Benedictine Sister on staff. Sister Karen Kosin, who served as Product Resource Manager, recently retired after 33 years at the Food Bank. “During my many years at Second Harvest I found my various roles challenging, all the while realizing that my work was helping people in need of food,” said Sister Karen

Sister Karen joined the staff of what was then Erie Community Food Bank in 1988. The Food Bank was still in its infancy, founded in 1982 with Erie Benedictine Sister Augusta Hamel as the first director. Over three plus decades, Sister Karen held numerous roles including inventory oversight, solicitation and purchase of food, arranging shipping, and gleaning at local farms. She helped establish connections with grocery stores and farmers so that their surplus food and produce could be redistributed through the food bank to the hungry. Sister Karen also developed a volunteer program to help with packing and distributing food—and to give the volunteers an opportunity to find meaning in helping and serving others.

In 1990 the Erie Community Food Bank became Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania, a name change that more accurately described the extent to which the Food Bank’s service area had grown. The change also recognized the Erie operation as part of the Second Harvest National Food Bank Network.

In 2000, in partnership with the Benedictine Sisters’ Emmaus Ministries, Second Harvest opened the first Kids Cafe program in northwest Pennsylvania to provide hot meals to hungry children. It continues to serve children under the auspices of Emmaus Ministries.

Sister Karen was part of Second Harvest’s move to its own building in 2008, located at 1507 Grimm Drive in Erie. “The move enabled us to expand our mission to procure and distribute more food an develop more programs to serve the hungry,” she explained. By 2020 Second Harvest had a fleet of three semis that greatly facilitated the collection and distribution of food throughout northwest Pennsylvania.

Today the Second Harvest Food Bank serves the hungry in 11 counties and runs multiple programs including backpacks and school pantries for children, mobile pantry distributions, food for veterans, and food boxes for seniors. During COVID the food bank offered pre-boxed, drive-by pickups for persons in need of food.

While Sister Karen’s retirement from Second Harvest in Erie marks the end of an era—it will be the first time in 40 years that there is no Benedictine sister on staff—the good work will continue. “Ministry to the community is an integral part of the rule of St. Benedict. Sister Karen Kosin lives that legacy and was instrumental to Second Harvest’s mission for 33 years. We have been privileged to work alongside her and have learned from her selfless dedication to the poor,” said Karen Seggi, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania. “Sister Karen has set an example for us to follow and her guidance will be truly missed.”